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In Case You Were Wondering What Happened To The Uber Puppies

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By Shambhavi Saxena:

On Wednesday afternoon, the internet surprised me with some delightful and confusing puppy-related news. Cab company Uber, first launched in San Francisco and now running in 57 countries, has tied up with Dogspot, India’s top e-Commerce website for dog merchandise, for a one-afternoon-only opportunity – Uber Puppies. Uber customers could use their mobile apps to request a fifteen minute play-date, and even had the option of formalizing an adoption. And the best part – they were all desi dogs, or Indian breeds that are often neglected because desi dogs are difficult to place in homes because of the high demand for fancier breeds with beautiful coats and exotic names. Divya Divakaran, who leads social media and events at Dogspot.in said, “At the end of the day a dog is a dog, and they will love you equally. That people have started thinking along the lines of ‘all dogs should be given homes’ is a huge success for us.”

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The pups were requested at various places – residential areas in South Delhi, offices in Connaught Place and even Gurgaon. So was all this driving around okay for them? Divakaran responded to the questions raised by many about the welfare of the puppies: “We didn’t pick up puppies from the streets. Foster parents voluntarily let their pups participate, because they believed in the cause. Uber sent one SUV for each puppy and experienced long-time volunteers were handling them, to make sure they were not strained in any way. They had plenty of food and water, and we even had one vet on standby. They were groomed and we made sure they were well enough for the outing. Yes, many people had apprehensions about puppies being driven around like this, but they spent hardly ten minutes in the car, and were outside most of the time, very playful, very happy. Thanks to the guidance and leadership of Dogspot’s Founder and CEO, Mr Rana Atheya, everything went smoothly.”

The initiative is reminiscent of the Human Walking Program that was conducted only last year with office workers in Melbourne, Australia – shelter dogs came to the rescue of humans who were trapped in their cubicles all day. The program resulted in a 100% adoption rate, according to the organizers, The Lost Dogs Home. With Uber Puppies too, the focus is adoption. Dogspot has tie ups with a number of NGOs managing pet adoptions, explained Divya Divakaran, who leads social media and events. Through their online portal, they are able to collect information and requests, and connect pet-lovers to said NGOs. “You’ll be amazed to know, we got over thirty adoption interests that day,” she said, “and many more via Facebook and Twitter.”

With thirty or more prospective homes out here in the city, things are looking good for these pups. But there have been those who have expressed their concern about the cab company’s involvement. Referring to its “corporate culture of misogyny and recklessness”, The Observer’s Jack Smith IV wondered if “a couple of puppies could wash away all that bad blood.”

Was this just a stunt for good press? Pups aren’t concerned with the trifles of human business. They only want what are called “forever homes” in shelter parlance. Divakaran stressed that it was an effort to place desi dogs in committed, loving homes. In India, unhoused dogs are scavengers, risking their lives for inadequate food, often dying on the streets of starvation, dehydration, hypothermia, or end up as victims of mindless human violence. Indies are Pariah dogs, which have existed in Asia and North Africa for over 14,000 years, forming close relationships with human tribes, for a mutually beneficial system of hunting and protection. And yet today, they are treated as vermin.

Dogspot takes its adoption process very seriously. “We aren’t simply handing over puppies to people. We’ve sent out adoption forms to those who asked, and if all the requirements are fulfilled, then we will perform house-checks to make sure there is ample space for the puppies and that the people are genuine dog-lovers, before they can be adopted, Dogspot is clearly the best insurance for dogs.”

This was the second time the program was carried out in India, the first time being in Pune. Uber partnered with organizations abroad as well, like the BARC Animal Shelter and Adoptions in Texas, USA this June, and the Montreal SPCA, the Ottawa Dog Rescue, and the Moosonee Puppy Rescue in Canada, as well as with Petsy in Mexico City. Business concerns aside, the issue of adoption is an important one. For one thing, adopting and sterilizing pets keeps these furries off the streets, manages populations, and actively seeks to end the dog-breeding industry. Having more such playdates in the future would only increase awareness about the welfare of shelter dogs, and we may just see more and more people opening their hearts and homes to them. Like they say: don’t shop, adopt!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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